Aromatic perennials will reward you with colourful spikes of flowers.
Big, bold and sunny rudbeckias are designed to make you smile. Commonly called black-eyed Susans, these short-lived perennials are native to prairies of North America, where they grow in moist grasslands. We usually treat them as annuals because winter wetness and soggy soils kills them.
But they’re easy to grow from seed and flower quickly, making them perfect bedding plants or colourful components of a mixed border. Their bold, roughly hairy leaves make attractive rosettes in early summer before they start to bloom, with branched stems carrying many large, daisy-like flowers, usually yellow or gold with black, cone-shaped centres.
Breeders have developed red, bronze and other rustic tones. They usually start to bloom in August and continue to the first autumn frost, providing food for bees and butterflies. The taller varieties make excellent cut flowers. Perfect companions for dahlias and cannas in beds and among shrubs, their flowers will complement autumn leaf colours. Rudbeckias are among the hardiest bedding plants so they can be started early in spring but add Perlite or grit to the compost because they dislike overwatering as seedlings. Grow them in good light and harden them off outside in April.
Exotic passiflora bring a touch of sultry luxury to any garden
Passion flowers (passiflora) are among the loveliest of climbers for a sunny wall or fence. Vigorous, evergreen climbers, they cling to their supports with tendrils and have intricately-shaped flowers in a wide range of colours. Most are native of South or Central America and are tropical, so need frost protection in winter. A few are tough enough to survive outside in a sheltered spot, just check their labels to see if they are hardy for your area.
They flower from summer to autumn and some have edible fruits, though the true passion fruit (P. edulis) is too tender to grow outside in the UK. The common blue passion flower (P. caerulea) also has edible fruits but they have little flavour.
Keep them happy
Those passion flowers that are not totally hardy can be grown in pots, up trellis or wicker cones and placed in a sunny spot in summer, then moved to a greenhouse or conservatory in winter. Or grow them in a warm conservatory or greenhouse all year. Outside, hardier types can be planted against a south or west-facing wall. Plant in poor or well-drained soil to encourage flowering for the best results.
Passion flowers bloom on new growth so trim them in spring, when you can see how much damage has been done in winter. Put a loose mulch over the roots in autumn so that shoots grow if the top growth is killed. In pots, feed every week with a high potash fertiliser.
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Delicate flowers for months make these easy plants garden favourites
Phygelius are long-flowering plants with long spikes of trumpet blooms showering down the plants. There are only two wild species – the taller, orange P. capensis and the smaller, reddish P. aequalis – from South Africa. These have been crossed to make new hybrids, popular for their showy pink, red and cream flowers. They are sometimes referred to as Cape fuchsias, although they’re not related to their namesake, but to foxgloves. Easy to grow, they often spread by creeping stems. Flowering happens in summer and early autumn. Plants range in height from 60cm (24in) to 1.5m (5ft). Plant them in pots or at the front or mid-area of borders. They look good with herbaceous plants such as goldenrod, coreopsis, rudbeckias, echinaceas and true fuchsias.
Keep them happy
Phygelius are semi-shrubby and have a woody base but they should be cut in spring as they’re not 100 per cent hardy. They prefer full sun and may struggle in wet clay soils. Generally pest free, they can be attacked by capsid bugs. Each shoot ends in a cluster of flowers. When these have faded, cut back stems for more flowers. In pots, water them frequently and feed every week. Divide clumps in spring or take cuttings of shoot tips in summer which will root readily within weeks.
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